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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 April 2006, 06:32 GMT 07:32 UK
'Last chance' for NI politicians
Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern
Dermot Ahern made the comments on Irish state television
Some of NI's leading politicians will not be involved in the process again if an assembly is not in operation by 24 November, Dermot Ahern has said.

The Irish foreign minister made the comments during a programme shown on Irish state television, RTE.

Last week the British and Irish governments gave MLAs until 24 November to set up a power-sharing executive.

Mr Ahern also said if they failed to achieve this, it would be a long time before talks resumed again.

"One of the issues we are saying is that the governments will move on and there is a deadline," he said.

"The two prime ministers are absolutely adamant about this.

"This is the year and I would hazard a guess that if it doesn't happen this year the two people involved, plus a couple of other leading figures in Northern Ireland politics, will be gone by the time we come back again."

On 6 April, prime ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern travelled to Northern Ireland to unveil their blueprint for restoring devolution.

They confirmed the assembly would be recalled on 15 May with parties being given six weeks to elect an executive.

If that fails, the 108 members get a further 12 weeks to try to form a multi-party devolved government. If that attempt fails, salaries will stop.

Assembly recalled on 15 May: politicians given six weeks to form executive
If this fails, further 12 weeks after summer recess to form executive
If this is not achieved by 24 November deadline, assembly members' salaries and allowances stopped
Governments would then work on partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday Agreement

The British and Irish governments would then work on partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Ahern has acknowledged the difficulties facing himself and Mr Blair were compounded by the murder of ex-Sinn Fein official and former British spy Denis Donaldson in County Donegal two days earlier.

Despite denials of involvement in the murder, the Democratic Unionist Party is blaming the IRA and that has pushed the prospect of power-sharing even further away.

Devolved government at Stormont was suspended in October 2002 following allegations of a republican spy ring.

Mr Donaldson was one of three men later acquitted of charges linked to those allegations.





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